What You Should Know About Emotional Trauma And Healing

Medically reviewed by Bobbi Jo Stoner, LPC
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

The process of emotional healing can be a challenging and life-changing experience. It involves addressing painful life experiences, changing your own beliefs, and working towards becoming a less self-abusive, less critical, and more productive person. By focusing on the present moment and applying cognitive techniques, you can make great progress in your healing journey. 

Stressful events may often lead to emotional trauma, which can sometimes lead to serious conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, different treatment options, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and lifestyle changes, can help aid emotional healing. Online therapy can be a convenient alternative to in-person therapy, and has been found to be just as effective. 

Here, we’ll delve into the nature of emotional trauma and explore potential treatments and pathways to healing. This includes examining the impact of traumatic events on mental health, the variety of ways we may exhibit symptoms, and the importance of professional intervention for healing and recovery. 


What is emotional healing?

Emotional healing is the process of recovering from emotional pain and trauma. It involves working through feelings of hurt, grief, anger, or fear that arise from past experiences, and gradually restoring emotional well-being. 

This journey enables us to come to terms with our experiences, release pent-up emotions, and ultimately find a way to move forward with a healthier mental state. The emotional healing process typically includes acknowledging and expressing your feelings, seeking support, practicing self-care, and sometimes, professional therapy.

 The goal is to reach a place of emotional stability and resilience, where one can experience a full range of emotions without being overwhelmed by the past.

Causes of emotional trauma

Different stressful and traumatic events can cause emotional trauma. Painful life experiences, such as divorce and abuse, can be long-lasting and severely affect a person’s emotions and emotional health. Even a one-time event, like a car accident or sports injury, can cause severe trauma, rampant anxiety, or confusing emotions. Other possible causes of trauma and difficult emotions include:

  • Going through a severe illness such as cancer or undergoing surgery
  • Experiencing the death of a loved one
  • Becoming injured from a physical attack
  • Living in a high-crime area
  • Living through a natural disaster
  • Witnessing an accident
  • Surviving an abusive relationship

Going through trauma can leave you with overwhelming emotional distress. Even if this traumatic event occurred a while ago, it could affect your emotional well-being for years without treatment. Certain events could trigger more emotional distress over time if the problem remains unresolved.

Symptoms of emotional trauma

People who struggle with emotional trauma may lack direction or support for their emotional healing journey. Negative emotions and unpleasant memories can bring about serious mental health concerns. Sometimes, people can be in denial of their own beliefs, emotions, and trauma. Other times, they may be confused and need help processing the trauma to move toward healing. 

You may experience the following symptoms after a traumatic emotional event:

  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts or memories of the event, often out of the blue
  • Emotions of shock or denial
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Inability to maintain close and healthy relationships
  • Depression and hopeless emotions
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Irritability
  • Hostility toward others
  • Guilt or shame
  • Anxiety or social anxiety
  • Feeling disconnected or numb to the world
  • Confusion
  • Anger issues
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability
  • Obsessions and/or compulsions

Everyone can experience emotional pain differently, so emotional healing may not look the same for any two people. You might experience a few or several symptoms at once. If you’re unsure whether your symptoms are the result of emotional pain or something more serious, like bipolar disorder or psychosis, you might wish to talk to a doctor or mental health professional.

Signs you might have post-traumatic stress disorder

If you find that your symptoms are not improving or are worsening over time, you may be experiencing PTSD, which is a serious mental health condition that generally arises from experiencing trauma.

Many people associate PTSD with combat veterans. While veterans can experience PTSD, people outside the military can also develop it. Living through or witnessing a particularly stressful event where you felt helpless can bring about symptoms of PTSD. 

Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Nightmares about the event
  • Severe emotional stress from triggers of the event
  • Flashbacks of the event that make you feel as though you are reliving it
  • Trouble remembering certain parts of the event
  • Attempting to avoid talking about or thinking about the traumatic event
  • Detachment from loved ones
  • Being easily startled or constantly surveying your surroundings for signs of danger

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consider speaking with a doctor as soon as possible. They may refer you to a mental health professional who can formulate a treatment plan, which may lead to less emotional distress. The sooner you start your healing journey, the sooner you may start to feel better.

Physical trauma and emotional healing


Physical trauma can coincide with emotional trauma when recovering from an accident, combat, or abuse. Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can experience physical trauma, such as brain injury or head trauma, which can affect emotional development as a person grows older.

Survivors of abuse may incur severe physical injuries that require physical therapy and other forms of emotional healing treatment. In addition, they may require psychotherapy and other emotional support services to help them cope with complicated feelings related to trauma. This trauma can sometimes have extensive effects on an individual.

The connection between physical and emotional pain

Emotional pain may hurt just as bad as physical pain, though in a different way. In many regards, the two can be interconnected. When someone has deep emotional pain, they may experience physical ailments as a result. When someone is experiencing emotional pain, they may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Sweating
  • Numbness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

There may be a clear link between emotional and physical symptoms and a clear link between physical and emotional healing. Rather than looking at physical and emotional pain as separate entities, many doctors and mental health professionals have begun looking at them together. One may affect the other, and vice versa.

Of course, some things may be purely emotional or purely physical. However, it’s clear that the two can exist on more of a spectrum or continuum rather than being entirely separate. Emotional healing can sometimes help alleviate physical pains, too.

Emotional pain in children and teenagers

Physical and emotional trauma can occur early in childhood. Children and adolescents who live in an emotionally or physically abusive home environment, witness domestic or emotional abuse between their parents, undergo surgery, or experience a serious illness may experience emotional distress. 

When you live through a traumatic event as a child and are not given time to process those emotions or begin healing, you may see the effects well into adulthood. Seeking treatment for it as soon as possible can be crucial in helping you cope with the complicated feelings it has caused and allowing you to reconnect with others. As you grow up, emotional healing can help ensure you maintain a healthy mindset.

The emotional healing journey

Transforming from a self-abusive person to a less self-abusive person requires self-reflection, self-compassion, and the willingness to make changes. Becoming a less critical person and more productive person can be achieved by addressing one's anxious nature and learning how to manage rampant anxiety. In some cases, healing emotional distress may involve turning off the "anxiety switch" and becoming a calmer person. 

Emotional healing requires understanding that only you can make all the difference in your life. By recognizing that a personality upgrade is possible, you can become a less egoistic person and develop a stronger, healthier sense of self. 

Rampant anxiety ruins the quality of life for many, and emotional healing takes time, effort, and patience. Incorporating various cognitive techniques and strategies may allow you to begin your healing journey and work towards a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Treatment options for recovering from emotional pain and emotional trauma

People who experience symptoms of conditions like PTSD, an anxiety disorder, or depression because of trauma can typically undergo emotional healing through evidence-based strategies like psychotherapy and group counseling.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is commonly used in emotional healing to treat cases of PTSD and other mental health issues. Patients who are living with these emotions and mental health concerns may learn how to challenge negative thought patterns and better cope with their symptoms through CBT.

Medication may also help you cope with your emotional healing, depending on the situation and condition. Always consult a medical professional for diagnosis or treatment before deciding to take any new medication.

Ways to support your emotional healing


Here are some ways you may support your health and your emotions if you’re working to heal and address your trauma:

  • Following a proper diet and fitness routine
  • Joining a support group
  • Making sleep a priority
  • Learning more about what you’re experiencing
  • Seeing a mental health professional
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • Meditating or practicing mindfulness
  • Journaling
  • Staying in touch with friends and other loved ones
  • Using deep breathing techniques
  • Doing yoga

Everyone may cope with stress and trauma in different ways because we are all unique individuals. Only you can determine which treatment helps you the most. You may need to try out a few emotional healing methods to find what works best. 

Online therapy may help you recover from emotional trauma

If you have experienced emotional trauma or believe you may be living with PTSD, please know that help is available. You may wish to consider therapy, whether face-to-face or online. With online therapy, you can find a therapist who you can speak with from your home or another familiar location with an internet connection.

According to one medically reviewed study, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, can be effective when administered online. CBT generally involves examining and adjusting thought patterns, which can positively affect your emotions and behaviors. This type of therapy is often used in treatment for emotional trauma and is sometimes used for PTSD as well.


Emotional trauma typically stems from highly stressful and emotional experiences. This type of trauma may have both emotional and physical symptoms, such as mood swings, panic attacks, hostility, feeling disconnected, stomach problems, and restlessness. Sometimes, emotional trauma may result in post-traumatic stress disorder, which can involve nightmares, flashbacks, detachment, and other symptoms. Healing emotional trauma may comprise different options, such as medication, lifestyle changes, and online therapy.

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